the lives of lions and chimpanzees but in getting to know Packer as a person. He shares impressions, motivations, fears, gossip and background rarely offered by biologists. He reveals himself to be engrossed more by the questions than by the animals themselves; he views baboons, chimpanzees and lions as "abstractions, like well-defined characters in a good novel."
The drive into the Serengeti Research Institute sets the park starkly in context. We see the Serengeti not just as a vast, wild grassland teeming with animals but as a 5,000-square-mile protected area embedded within a larger African civilization of hunting reserves, small towns, markets, agriculture and tourist lodges. Two million hungry people live within 50 miles of the park's western boundary, in a landscape where lines of snares and pit traps dot the river-banks. This is not the Serengeti we think we know from television specials.
As Packer drives his graduate students around the study site, we, too, become immersed in the sights and sounds of the Serengeti. Later he explains how he began to unravel the Gordian knot of problems that surround the issue of cooperative hunting. While puzzling over the generally dismal show of cooperation displayed by hunting lions in the Serengeti, Packer tries to enter the mind of a selfish animal on a group hunt. " Think of a doubles match where your partner is the top seed at the tournament, and you are a rank amateur," he writes. "When the ball comes over the net, what are you going to do? Charge around and run yourself ragged, or hang back and force your talented part ner to cover most of the court?" Among the selfish lions of the Serengeti, the answer is to hang back—as long as someone else is taking the mortal risk, don't bother to get up!
The lions of the Serengeti spend most of the year at the animal equivalent of a Christmas dinner table. Elsewhere in Africa, where prey is much scarcer, lions often do hunt cooperatively. These conflicting observations, once a source of argument, now fit neatly into the theory that animals hunt cooperatively only when they have to.
After a couple of weeks with the lions, Packer heads for Gombe, the site of Jane Goodall's three-decade-long study of chimpanzees. Compared with the "big sky" splendor of the Serengeti, Gombe is a dark, sodden place full of snakes, biting insects and steep hillsides covered with tangled vegetation. Fieldwork-ers constantly battle the elements just to move around, let alone follow baboons or chimpanzees and collect data. On one occasion, Packer and another researcher are caught in a tropical downpour: "The storm finally breaks free, and we can only brace ourselves, there is no place to hide. The air is white with rain; we stand facing the ground to keep from choking. The baboons sit like Buddhas with their eyes closed."
Returning after several years' absence, Packer scans the faces of the children and grandchildren of the baboons he studied years ago and re-
ABUNDANT PREY, such as these wildebeest, make hunting comparatively easy for the lions of the Serengeti.
marks regretfully that there is no easy, objective way to recognize these animals. Unlike lions, they cannot be identified by whisker rows and spots, then catalogued in a card index file; their faces must be learned and stored in the minds of human observers.
Recollecting his student days at Gom-be two decades earlier, Packer regales us with the highs and lows of living and working in this famous 12-square-mile patch of forest. In the early 1970s, when research at Gombe was at its peak, as many as 18 graduate students lived, played and worked there. Although field conditions were arduous and the hours incredibly long, a sense of community prevailed—"the Gombe spirit," as Goodall called it. Remarkable scientific discoveries took place there, including the first observations of cannibalism among chimps and chimpanzee warfare—male groups invading, attacking and cooperating to pin down and kill an opponent.
There were also hauntingly bad times at Gombe. A female graduate student died, probably having fallen off a cliff while following a group of male chimpanzees. One terrible night 40 armed men stormed the camp and kidnapped an administrator and three Stanford University students. Those events resulted in major procedural changes. In place of the graduate students, Tanza-nian fieldworkers now do most of the chimp following but not just as unin-volved day laborers. They discuss their day in the forest in excited detail, relating new moves by the chimps and talking about who did what to whom. The spirit of discovery and teamwork remains. Gombe should be a model for long-term field studies everywhere.
Apart from longing for more photographs and a detailed map to follow Packer's journey, one closes Into Africa with a sense of satisfaction. Not only have we explored a part of the world that must rank high on the agenda of every armchair traveler, but we have ventured behind the scenes of the television specials on animal behavior to experience what it is like to be there, doing the research. We have come to know our guide and have enjoyed being with him despite, or perhaps because of, his driven, worried and intestinally challenged companionship. Packer has done what few have been able to do. He has put a face on a real wildlife biologist.
MEL SUNQUIST is an associate professor in the department of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida. FIONA SUNQUIST is a science writer and roving editor for International Wildlife.
Review by Virginia Deane Abernethy
Critical Masses: The Global Population Challenge, by George D. Mof-fett. Viking, 1994 ($26.95).
The author's journalistic background forms the touchstone of this in-depth exploration of the perils of overpopulation. George D. Moffett's skillful weaving of facts and anecdotes vividly conveys the population-driven environmental, social, political and economic disintegration that is occurring worldwide; unfortunately, he also credulously repeats some of the bankrupt conventional wisdom about how to confront the current situation. The book's greatest strength derives from the extensive interviews he has conducted with men and women from all walks of life. These quotes and paraphrases open a window on the calculus underlying survival strategies and family-size decisions in diverse settings ranging from Cairo to Thailand to Guatemala.
The comments elicited by Moffett support my own findings (which I have set out in Population Politics and elsewhere) that a sense of limited environmental resources and of deteriorating economic opportunity strongly encourages people to exercise reproductive and marital caution. In Cairo, he writes, "housing shortages have forced thousands of couples to delay marriage, sometimes for years." In Thailand, "Sam Ruang would like to have one more child, but he understands that that is beyond his means." In Mexico a 32-year-old mother of two defends her use of contraceptives to the village priest, saying that "'things are difficult here. A majority of people are having hard times. Jobs are hard to come by.'"
A further brake on fertility comes from the new pattern of international lending, in which loans are tied to the important contingency that the recipient governments implement austerity measures. Moffett observes that the Mexican government "has turned adversity to good account, communicating the message that because of the country's protracted economic crisis, more children means less for everyone." When the Kenyan government eliminated subsidies for education, "faced with the need to shoulder the costs of education alone, many parents have responded by embracing family planning and having fewer children."
Drawing on his own extensive research and scientific background, Mof-fett writes that "the inverse relationship between living costs and childbearing is found throughout the developing world." That conclusion is congruent with a recent report on acceptance rates of contraceptives among the Yoruba in Nigeria. John Caldwell, a respected demographer, stated that "two-thirds of all respondents claimed that the major force behind marriage postponement and the use of contraception to achieve it was the present hard economic conditions." Many of Caldwell's informants also perceived that as local crowding increased, children seemed more susceptible to dying, and they viewed this connection as a deterrent to frequent childbearing, counter to what is often assumed.
The policy implications are not arcane. On the contrary, they are all too clear but do not sit well with the interventionist-internationalists (a cabal well represented in the media), who espouse the 50-year-old demographic transition model, which justifies blanket foreign aid aimed at increasing personal wealth. Unfortunately, the journalist in Moffett quickly retreats from his rich data in favor of the conventional tenets. He is soon laying out the need for economic development and reporting that half of a successful family-planning policy entails "continuing efforts to alleviate poverty and raise living standards." Yet by Moffett's own account, it is perception of the fact and threat of declining living standards that have induced countless people to limit family size.
Indeed, the data suggest—but well-meaning people are loath to state—that past government subsidies of food, housing, health care and education (made possible by international development aid) were counterproductive precisely because they fostered images of abundance and prosperity. I have found that fertility stays high and may in fact rise under such circumstances. History provides numerous examples of fertility rising in response to expansion of the ecological niche, whether as a result of innovative technology, improved crops, new sources of income, escape through migration, or a populist political change that promises to redistribute wealth.
It is telling that those few of Moffett's informants who remain comfortable with large family size are the very ones who still perceive a frontier of opportunity. Guatemalan Lopez Alala, for example, was a pioneer logger in the Peten region, a virgin forest opened to settlement in the early 1970s. He and his fellow families average nearly eight children each. Lopez anticipates that his children's families will be of similar size and expects also that "the forest will be there for them to clear." Who but the willfully blind would not speculate that
Lopez's grand procreative strategy might be linked to his optimism?
Every time Moffett mentions the "demographic transition model" as a prescription for slowing population growth, it chills the blood: cash infusions that subsidize consumption seem only to fuel high fertility. The larger part of his recommendations are sound, however. In the excellent chapter called "A World Population Plan of Action," he describes the importance of getting contraceptive services to impoverished peoples and hard-to-reach constituencies, a challenge that often involves overcoming the concerted objections of entrenched religious entities. Moffett rightly cites improved employment opportunities for women as another promising strategy for limiting family size. Case studies show that women who work in the cash economy, however menially, recognize the cost of time spent raising children and so are more willing to limit the number of offspring.
But Moffett and others are also ready—too ready, in my opinion—to spend scarce resources on women's education and health care. Although these services are desirable in themselves, the evidence linking them to lower fertility is correlational and open to multiple interpretations. Nevertheless, health and education were part of the mainstream credo of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo last September.
With the caveats given, Moffett's book can be recommended for those who want a lively and provocative introduction to the world population crisis. It is a challenge for the reader to sort out real data from rote repetition of demographic transition theory. The problem is important enough, one hopes, to spur policymakers and informed citizens to consult a wider reference list.
VIRGINIA DEANE ABERNETHY is professor of psychiatry and anthropology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and author of Population Politics: The Choices That Shape Our Future (Plenum Press, 1993).
Road to Nowhere
Review by Joseph I. Silk
The Physics of Immortality : Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead, by Frank J. Tipler. Doubleday, 1994 ($24.95).
The dividing line between science and science fiction is surprisingly soft. One might hope that scientists would strive to maintain the division
PACKED MARKET reflects the huge population of Cairo. Would economic development really slow population growth, as is commonly assumed?
from their side. Recent books suggest otherwise. Not long ago we had Kip Thorne taking the theory of general relativity via Black Holes and Time Warps into the uncharted territory of time machines. Now, in The Physics of Immortality, Frank J. Tipler, a professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University, vigorously attempts to drag relativity through the doors of the church.
Tipler takes us one large step further than Thorne does beyond the pale of scientific respectability. He uses big bang cosmology to prove the existence of God, specifically a loving God who will resurrect us all to eternal life. Tipler claims that theology is simply a sub-branch of physics and that God is what he defines as the Omega Point : the end point to our universe, when the future big crunch will provide an inexhaustible supply of energy (from the release of gravitational energy liberated by the collapse of the cosmos). Armed with that energy and a corresponding ability to store information, a supercomputer of the future—also known as God—will attain unlimited power, resurrect the dead and bestow all sorts of blessings on humanity.
Most cosmologists are prepared to accuse Tipler of the direst crime, perpetrating a hoax of Piltdown Man proportions. Yet the reading public seems eager to embrace Tipler's theology. Even Wolfhart Pannenberg, an eminent German theologian, has spoken out in its defense. To provide a veneer of sophistication, Tipler appends many pages of mathematical notes, which generate an almost impenetrable aura of erudition.
Immortality, he purports to prove, is an inevitable consequence of general relativity and quantum theory. When Tipler starts using physics to prove the existence of God, the scientist tunes out. But is dabbling with God any more insidious than musing about time travel? And where does Tipler go wrong, if indeed he is guilty of the alleged crime?
Other researchers have already softened up the God-seeking audience. Physicists far more mainstream than Tipler have equated God with such fundamental entities as a set of equations or the Higgs boson, an undiscovered elementary particle. European countries are pouring billions of dollars into the Large Hadron Collider for the Higgs search. Particle physicists flock around "theories of everything" (which aim to explain the very basis of existence) like moths around a flame.
Even observational cosmologists have entered the God stakes. George Smoot, the leader of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration team that discovered fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, described his achievement as seeing "the face of God." Paul Davies, seldom far from the forefront of cosmology, has already written two books in which he identifies God as a quantum cosmologist. Never one to be bashful, Stephen W. Hawking declared God unnecessary. Hawking proposes that the universe has no boundary in space or time, rendering a divine Creator superfluous.
Tipler takes a very different, personal tack that carries him into uncharted territory light-years beyond Davies, Hawk ing and their ilk. Tipler's theology, for instance, embraces not just cosmic structure but human sex: thanks to the Omega Point, "it would be possible for each male to be matched not merely with the most beautiful woman in the world, not merely with the most beautiful woman who has ever lived, but...with the most beautiful woman whose existence is logically possible." In this process, our bodies can acquire the most desirable characteristics, and unrequited love is certain to be requited. This astonishing vision, we are told, stems directly from application of Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Tipler's bold assertions test the limits of how far science can take us in the ageless quest for an omniscient and omnipotent deity. Physics is far from confronting consciousness. For now, biologists laugh at the notion that quantum gravity could provide vital clues to the origin or evolution of life. Yet Tipler envisages a supercomputer of the future that will be able to resurrect human beings in full: our memories of passion, our thoughts of beauty, our dreams and desires. I concede that one must remain open-minded regarding any predictions about the capabilities of supermachines billions of years in the future, but I cannot really believe what Tipler describes.
My confidence in Tipler's grand predictions is not strengthened by the gaping holes in his more specific assertions. Consider the claim that he has made elsewhere, and repeats in The Physics of Immortality, that the universe cannot be teeming with life, because if it were we would have already found artifacts of ancient alien civilizations in the solar system. This fallacious argument ignores the likelihood that any advanced civilization capable of colonizing the galaxy would have developed the ability to hoodwink and hide from any terrestrial simpletons they encountered.
The assertion that our fate in a collapsing universe will enable us to unlock the gates of heaven is equally flawed, for a simple reason. When the universe was one minute old, it was about as hot and dense as the center of the sun. We
GOD PRESIDES over the Ptolemaic universe in Martin Luther's bible. In a twist on traditional theology, Frank J. Tipler wants to build a modern God from the laws of physics.
are quite confident of this description because of the remarkable success that the big bang theory has had in predicting the abundances of the light elements, which were synthesized in the first few minutes. In the distant future, if the universe does ultimately collapse, it would return it to a similarly hot, dense state. No room there for any supercomputer or for any recognizable being. Sex would not be much fun at 100 million kelvins. It seems that Tipler has constructed hell rather than heaven.
Can this man actually believe what he writes? Or is he the Don Quixote of modern physics, tilting at imaginary windmills? Even these questions are almost beside the point. Tipler's illustrious predecessors in cosmology have presented hypotheses in which they allegedly did not believe. Tipler's real crime is to have cheapened physics by bringing it down to the level of a religious cult.
This pandering does a disservice to science. It may sell books, but it alienates philosophers, if not theologians. Reduc-tionism does not work any longer, even in physics. Nor does physics begin to tap the depths and complexity of biological structures. Life is likely to involve far more than a set of equations. I would contend that as many mysteries may reside in the uncertain boundaries at critical phase transitions as in the physical regimes amenable to algorithmic computation. One has to go beyond physics to comprehend the full complexities of nature.
Physics, for good reason, was born, and still resides in some circles, as natural philosophy. Physics and philosophy enrich each other, in a relationship that deserves to be more than a mere relic from the amateur inquirers of that bygone era. Why should modern physicists give a hoot about philosophical issues? The reason, as I see it, is to keep the science in perspective, a notion that Tipler has lost.
Older, established physicists often have turned their thoughts toward religion. Steven Weinberg writes that "the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless," which runs counter to Einstein's more optimistic philosophy, shared by many scientists, "God is subtle, but He is not malicious." Davies insists that "science offers a surer path to God than religion." And Hawking offers his dream: "Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God."
Such thoughts complement theology and are not a substitute; Tipler, however, takes the search for a science of God to a ridiculous extreme. Humility in the face of the persistent, great unknowns is the true philosophy that modern physics has to offer.
JOSEPH I. SILK is professor of astronomy and physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of A Short History of the Universe (Scientific American Library, 1994).
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